Ringside Seat: April Fools

Imagine if you visited a foreign country, and the people there told you that on one day every year, everyone tried to expose one another as gullible half-wits. Other holidays might honor historical figures or encourage love and fellowship, but on "You're An Idiot On October 12th Day," the celebration was all about mean-spirited cons and contempt for your intellectual lessers. Victory goes to those best able to subject others to the humiliation of being exposed as a buffoon. "But it's all in good fun!" the people would tell you, and you'd remind yourself to move your wallet from your back pocket to your front pocket whenever you left the hotel.

April Fool's Day, however, seems to be celebrated all over the world. Be careful that your bed has not been short-sheeted today, or cellophane placed carefully under your toilet seat. In politics it was no different than anywhere else: Barack Obama tried to fool the press corps into thinking that he stinks at basketball, Rick Perry tried to fool Texans into believing that turning down billions of federal dollars for Medicaid is something other than a smack at the poor, and in an actually almost-funny April Fool's joke, former congressman and ex-con Bob Ney, whose first name is "Disgraced," took to Facebook to announce that he and Jack Abramoff were forming a company to advise John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi on ethics. You could almost believe it. 

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The modern custom may have originated in France when the Gregorian calendar, which moved New Year's Day from March 25 to January 1, was adopted in 1582. Those who continued to celebrate the end of New Year Week on April 1 were referred to as fools." And rightfully so! What kind of 16th-century French nincompoop wouldn't get on board with the latest calendar change? Wikipedia tells us that "Iranians play jokes on each other on the 13th day of the Persian new year (Nowruz) (now means new and ruz means day), which falls on April 1 or April 2. This day, celebrated as far back as 536 BC, is called Sizdah Bedar and is the oldest prank-tradition in the world still alive today; this fact has led many to believe that April Fools' Day has its origins in this tradition." But for all you know, we could just be making that up.

So They Say

"If two people of the same sex fall in love and want to marry, why would our government stand in their way? At a time when many Americans lament a lack of commitment in our society between married men and women, why would we want less commitment and fewer strong marriages? If two people of the same sex want to raise children, why would our government prevent them from doing so, especially when so many children have only one parent, or none at all? ... As a Senator and as a citizen, I can no longer in good conscience take a position that denies her and her family the full measure of equality and respect."

 — Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey

Daily Meme: Egg Roll'd

  • Easter may have been yesterday, but the White House is celebrating today, as always, with their Easter Egg Roll.
  • The president and his family have been hosting this event since 1878, when egg rollers were forced to flee the Capitol lawn—where the egg roll had been held since the Dolly Madison days—with the Hill police hot on their tails after lawmakers passed a Turf Protection Law to keep the youngsters at bay. Needless to say, they found the change of venue very nice.
  • So, what is egg rolling? According to TIME, it is a European custom of murky origin wherein a hard-boiled egg is pushed, dragged, flung or otherwise propelled across a lawn with a long-handled spoon."
  • Pat Nixon started the tradition of inviting the Easter Bunny to the big bash, who has been in attendance since 1969
  • This year, President Obama read  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, after which he noted, "Clearly, the alphabet is full of a bunch of troublemakers." 
  • Whether it lived up to last year's recitation of Where the Wild Things Are, so epic it required an entire slideshow, remains to be seen.
  • We can say, definitively, that the event's web presence has improved markedly since 1995
  • The event, 30,000 strong, did spawn some memorable photos, like this "aww" moment with a cute kid who cried after losing the race ...
  • ... as well as some Office-worthy awkward moments.

What We're Writing

  • David Kirp set out to find what gives turnaround school districts their turnarounds, and the results, depending on your viewpoint, are/n't surprising. The secret, he writes, is good old-fashioned schooling, with emphasis on early education, good teachers, and individual care.
  • How the heck did red-state North Dakota get one of the most populist financial institutions in the country? Abby Rapoport investigates.

What We're Reading

  • Kid President visited the White House today and addressed the nation. It is adorable.
  • Dave Weigel talks to one of the early bird pro-Hillary Clinton super PACs. 
  • The Sunlight Foundation got into the April Fools spirit by announcing the release of their Transparency Drone, accompanied with truly excellent photoshopping.
  • Tar sands are wrecking our environment, sure, but they're also helping to turn Canada into a Venezuela-style petrostate, and the construction of the Keystone XL is only going to make things worse.
  • So this other tar-sands pipeline, Pegasus, ruptured on Friday and is spewing tens of thousands of barrels of oil into Arkansas suburbs. Exxon's response has been exactly as cagey and vague as BP's in the early days of Deepwater Horizon.
  • Ken Cuccinelli isn't the first anti-abortion advocate to compare abortion with slavery, and he won't be the last, but his ill-advised analogy might pose problems for his gubernatorial run
  • Marco Rubio's trying to split the difference between the Tea Party and Latinos, being seen to fight against and support an immigration deal at the same time. Betting that one of your constituencies is full of rubes isn't necessarily a bad strategy, but chances are the Hispanic voters will catch on.
  • Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp put up an excoriating anti-gay editorial in the Washington Times, and as per Poe's Law, you can't really tell if it's for April Fools or not.


Fifty percent of Americans believe that the rate of teen pregnancy has increased since 1991, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, when in fact it has fallen by 49 percent. Young people were more misinformed about the change, with 68 percent believing we'd gotten worse. In the end, only 18 percent of Americans have an accurate perception of teen-pregnancy rates.

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